Let's face it. For the majority of the football world, the tight end position just isn't that sexy. It's been that way for the better part of three decades, but the times, they are a' changin'.
Spurred by the reintroduction of the receiving tight end in the NFL, the position is once again coming into vogue. Modern offenses have used the tight end primarily as a blocking weapon (Alabama would be included on that list). However, the rise of tight ends as athletic receiving threats in The League has given the position a bit of a resurgence. Players like Vernon Davis, Rod Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are offensive weapons for which defenses must account. In many cases, exploitable mismatches are created by such players at the tight end position because they are generally covered by slower, shorter or smaller defenders.
Last year, Tide starting tight end Michael Williams was used primarily as a blocker (more appropriately, as a linebacker slayer). Williams didn't get many chances to demonstrate his receiving ability, but as a blocker, few tight ends were more steady.
But Williams is gone following his senior year, leaving a bevy of top-flite recruits who have the measurables for the position, if not a wealth of experience. Of course, many point to the arrival of 5 star prep sensation O.J. Howard in Tuscaloosa as a watershed moment, evidence of a new commitment from the Tide offense to utilizing the tight end as a receiving threat. While Howard will likely play from Day 1 at the Capstone, there is another contributor at tight end waiting in the wings, namely Brian Vogler.
Vogler, a redshirt sophomore out of Brooktstone High School in Columbus, GA, has been used in a reserve role behind Williams for the last two years. Coming out of high school, the 6'7", 258 pound Vogler was touted highly amongst recruiting services (#7 TE nationally by ESPNU; #9 TE nationally by Rivals), garnering many High School All-American recognitions in the process.
While Vogler's impact with the Tide has been minimal to date (2 receptions for 21 yards in 2012), he will most definitely be called into action this year as one of the Tide's top two tight ends. Let's look a little deeper into what makes Vogler special.
Coming out of high school, Vogler was seen as the next Holla McGee (aka Colin Peek); a tall, rangy tight end (and a ginger, by the way, which means he's ornery as a pissin' bull) who could catch anything thrown his way. Since his action on field has been somewhat limited at Alabama to date, his prep highlights give us a better picture of how he may figure in the Tide's overall scheme this season.
Brian Vogler Senior Highlights (via briankimbo)
As Vogler's HS footage indicates (see link), he has the height and the hops to become an good receiving tight end. He comes to the table with the prototypical TE body, long and somewhat lean compared to his fellow big uglies on the line of scrimmage. What was somewhat shocking from his HS highlights are his leaping ability, his straight line speed, and his ability to high point and attack the ball. Let's face it, there simply aren't many safeties or linebackers who are going to win a jump ball with a guy who goes 6'7". If that guy also has good hands, the mismatch created against linebackers and safeties could be a prolific one. In this respect, Vogler is very much a clone of former Tide TE Peek, as he gives the laser-accurate AJ McCarron yet another receiving weapon, and one that will create considerable match-up problems for opposing defenses.
While many are confident that Vogler will be able to contribute to the offense as a receiver, the question mark may come in the form of his blocking ability. After all, the greatest contribution Williams made to last year's offensive game plan was his devastatingly effective blocking. Williams and RG Chance Warmack had their way with the Georgia linebacking corps in last year's SEC championship game, and in essence, sound play in the running game is the way a tight end will contribute to the Tide offense most of the time.
In limited action for the Tide, Vogler has at least presented the appearance of being a mangler on the line of scrimmage. Though his blocking style is not the brute force , sledge-hammer method typically utilized by Williams, his ability to snare and occupy defenders while sealing the running lanes is apparent. Blessed with long arms, Vogler's blocking style is less about strength and more about entanglement. Regardless of the style used, the end results are the same (i.e. stunted defenders) and the method matters not.
At other times during his short UA career, Vogler has demonstrated that brute force is also a part of his repertoire. For example, Vogler was flagged in the opening game of the 2012 season against Michigan for an illegal block (which was questionable). At least to homer eyes, the block looked as though it was executed nearly flawlessly, but its viciousness likely led to the penalty. He delivered a textbook comeback block on UM corner JT Floyd near the sidelines while protecting McCarron during a scramble.
Brian Vogler Big Hit Against Michigan (via rollfreakintide)
The decleater resulted in a penalty, true. But the play by Vogler Found in the link below) also illustrated his game awareness and ability to crush defenders with a well placed blow. Those traits, together with his receiving ability, will likely be a key part of the tight end game plan in the coming season.
Certainly, Vogler will be splitting time with the freshman sensation Howard. But in his own right, Vogler will be asked to contribute as an offensive weapon on many occasions, especially on obvious running downs. For all Howard's upside, he is still a freshman who has not had the benefit of Scott Cochran's strength and conditioning program. Vogler, on the other hand, has added substantial weight since arriving in Tuscaloosa, and appears ready to step in at the position without a drop-off from last year's primary contributor at the position.